Monday, 8 February 2010

Sounds evocative

Greenfingers recently posted a piece called Call of the Wild extolling the virtues of the sound of the redshank and asking his readers if they have 'any iconic wildlife sounds that convey the same sense of place?

Sounds are such an important contributor to atmosphere that its so difficult to pick one above others.  The redshank's familiar call has been the backing track to so many brilliant days on the coast over the years that its right up there on my own list of favourites.  But, I have to say that the curlew would top that for me.  If ever there is a sound that invokes open wild places, from summer moorland to winter shore, then this is surely it - the emblematic bird of the Northumberland National Park and rightly so.

However, I have a sneaky favourite - one bird whose sound I always love to hear when it arrives in numbers on the coastal flats of Lindisfarne and Budle Bay - the wigeon.  Its whistle, floating on the wind on a cold winters day takes some beating - and its a bonny sight into the bargain.

I have a weird sort of brain whereby a sound can trigger a precise memory of exactly where I was when I heard it.  One such sound that still brings back a vivid and wonderful memory, from many years ago now, of  5am on silent misty moors between Weardale and Teesdale is this one... the black grouse. Imagine a spooky silence and tricky shadows broken only by this sound, with the birds invisible somewhere in the murk and you've got it.

But before I get carried away completely and start mentioning kittiwakes echoing off the Cullernose cliffs just one more as I admit to a soft spot for a charismatic little bird whose sound encapsulates the best of mature deciduous woodlands. The sound of the wood warbler (nice recording here - scroll down to the last on the list) tootling its plaintive little whistle before shaking itself to bits is ten out of ten.

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